In efforts to establish a bridge of togetherness, the Africa Love store – through Da’African Village, our sister company and a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in Nevada – opens its doors to a bi-monthly forum called, “Pan-African Soul Sessions.” (P.A.S.S) The focus of the forum is to build a bond between the African and African American communities in our city.
Hosted in Town Square, and coordinated by Dre’chir Whitfield, cultural ambassador of Da’African Village, each session has one goal – uplift both Africans and African Americans through transparent conversations centered on positive dynamics and entrepreneurs in the community. The topics and panelists are intentionally selected to create an environment that allows the audience to participate in the conversation.
In light of Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, Da’African Village hosted another Pan African Soul Session focused on being Healthy from the Inside out. On Friday, July 19, the panelists (shown above), who are all active mental health professionals and health advocates in the community, shared their knowledge, perspectives and experiences.
Mental Health in the Black Community
Although anyone can develop a mental health problem, African Americans sometimes experience more severe forms of mental health conditions due to unmet needs and other barriers. According to the Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, African Americans are 20% more likely to experience serious mental health problems than the general population.
In our community, we understand that having a mental health diagnoses, or even a having a therapist comes with stigma. No one wants to be seen as “crazy”. It’s no secret that we live in a system that wasn’t designed for us. The black experience in America includes oppression – racism, post traumatic slave syndrome, economic imbalances, and low-quality food in predominately black neighborhoods. We’ve endured so much, that we have every right to admit we just might be a little crazy and a little angry, too.
Why Mental Health?
Interestingly enough, each panelist was driven by their own personal desire to help and heal people, which led them to entering the mental health field. Jacent Wamala had stated that the higher she goes in her field, the less black and brown people she sees. “We are dealing with generational trauma,” said Gail Lawson, “it’s important that we heal [our generational trauma] with someone who looks like us.” Black people deserve the luxury of seeing mental health professionals who looks like them and can understand the struggle.
Gordon Hale shared about his health, at 78, and not having to take any medication. This is very uncommon for Americans over the age of 55. He attributes his physical health to his product, Juice, that includes over 20 fruits and vegetables. He feels that we should do away with medicine to treat issues and let food be thy medicine.
Many of Us Have Lived Experience
The audience immediately jumped into the conversation. It was quite difficult to stay on topic because conversations like these don’t happen too often. Many people were concerned with using western medicine versus homeopathic routes. Alexia Brown had mentioned her lived experience with her father having schizophrenia and being diagnosed with anxiety herself.
One audience member asked about treating illnesses like schizophrenia, because her mother was also schizophrenic. Although you may not deal with mental health issues, someone you know more than likely does. It may be a child in your neighborhood, a friend, and even a family member. Keith Stark, who has worked with youth, mentioned that although healing may occur in a child, if the family isn’t also making efforts to change, the same patterns will return.
Where do We Go from here?
The conversations at the Pan African Soul Sessions create the desire for more action. Mara Diakhate, president and CEO of Da’African Village, and owner of the Africa Love Store, passionately shared with the audience that we need solutions.
There are many ways for us to take action today. A simple way to start is to have more compassion when dealing with others. Many people suffer in silence so think before you react. If you’d like to be a mentor to homeless youth, you can sign up to be a mentor at NPHY.org. It’s time to take action and heal each other.